Monday, September 15, 2014

Tips for Attending the Music City Food + Wine Festival This Weekend

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 3:08 PM

In preparation for this weekend's Music City Food + Wine Festival, I've been going over some coverage of last year's festival and mining my memory to compile some dos and don'ts. Festival organizers also assessed last year's event, with the goal of making this year's festival even better.

In response to feedback from last year’s inaugural event, producers have split out ticketing so you can choose which portions of the festival you’d most like to attend. (Ticket options range from $150 to $500.) I heard a lot of people ponder the festival’s ticket price last year, debating whether they could eat and drink enough to justify the ticket price.

But that thinking really doesn’t take into account my favorite part of last year’s festival, which was attending the cooking demonstrations and having some actual one-on-one conversations with this amazing collection of chefs. I learned some great tips in the demonstrations, as well as at the tasting tables, where the region’s finest chefs are right there in front of you, preparing and serving some of their favorite items. And then there’s the booze: a huge array of fine wines, spirits and beers … more than you should really be consuming in an afternoon. (Check out more information about The Grand Taste, which takes place in tents in Public Square Park).

Meanwhile, one of the events split out for a single ticket option is Harvest Night in Walk of Fame Park, which offers both a dining component (signature dishes from 15 of the visiting chefs) along with freely flowing booze and live music curated by festival creators Kings of Leon. We just learned details of that lineup: Respected local crew The Long Players will back performers including Kings of Leon themselves, Michael McDonald, Jamey Johnson, Ashley Monroe, Brendan Benson, Jessie Baylin, Billy Joe Shaver, the two Bobby Bares (senior and junior), The McCrary Sisters, Moon Taxi and more. (Apparently they will all sing songs inspired by Nashville.)

Anyway, here are my tips on how to get the most out of the Music City Food + Wine Festival. If you have any tips from attending last year — or other similar festivals — please share them in the comments.

1. Look at the schedule of demos and plan which ones you want to attend and be sure to grab a drink and/or tasting beforehand. Same goes for the panel discussions, which are more entertaining than educational, but worth the time. The tasting tents are a good way to learn more about wines and liquors, too. I had a small notebook with me last year for jotting down some of the things I learned.

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Video Bite: Volksfest

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 11:57 AM

The second annual Volksfest was held this past weekend at the Nashville Farmers' Market, and the new space seemed to hold the event quite nicely. In addition to several German beers and some amazing Yazoo Sue-braised bratwurst from Riffs Fine Foods, there was live music, a car show and a children's play area.

For those of you who would rather watch than read, here's a quick video recap. [Note: As long as I don't pay for the professional upgrade to this cool new Videolicious software that I got at a recent journalism convention, you all should never have to be subjected to more than a minute of my mad video editing skillz.]

Prost, y'all!

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Walking (and Dining) in Memphis

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 7:13 AM

As the self-declared barbecue ambassador here at Bites, I figured it was time to pay a state visit to Memphis and open discussions regarding the recent controversy surrounding this proclamation vis-a-vis the proclaimed superiority of our local pitmasters compared to the Bluff City. Actually, while I appreciate the thought and love many of the purveyors of smoked meats here in town, I personally don't believe we can claim Top 5 status with regard to the breadth and quality of barbecue offerings. Yet.

Actually, I was in town for the Association of Food Journalists convention, but I headed west a couple of days early to do some culinary exploration before the restaurateurs all got nervous over the prospect of 100-plus food writers coming to town. As my waistline can profess, I discovered some excellent new dining options and revisited some old favorites while I was there.

My first visit was to Porcellino, the newest project from Andy Tice and Michael Hudman of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Hog & Hominy. Still under construction, their upcoming project will be a combination whole-animal butcher shop/cafe that promises all sorts of artisan sausages plus beer, wine and coffee. It should be quite a nice addition to the Memphis foodscape when it opens later this fall.

I spent an evening bar and restaurant-hopping around Overton Square, a neighborhood about 10 minutes east of downtown that is rapidly developing into a miniature version of Atlanta's Buckhead district. I had already visited chef Kelly English's excellent Restaurant Iris on previous trips, but this time I wanted to check out his casual New Orleans-style eatery right next door, The Second Line. The two restaurants actually share a kitchen so English can keep an eye on both spots at once, and he frequently cruises the dining rooms checking on his patrons' dining experience.

Much more laid-back than Iris, Second Line has vibe and decor that harken to a casual eatery in the Garden District of New Orleans. There are charming details like a bas-relief representation of the topography of the Mississippi River from Memphis to the Big Easy running along the front face of the bar. Lamps are made out of old whiskey bottles and a repurposed confessional door serves as an accent element hanging from the ceiling.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

We Have a Southern Artisan Cheese Festival Winner!

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 3:56 PM

Congratulations to commenter Christapessagno, you’ve just won two tickets to the Southern Artisan Cheese Festival! Please email me at lesley [at] with your contact information (full name and email address) so I can put you on the list.

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest. It was no surprise to me that many of you are excited to see Blackberry Farms. And for good reason; last year, Blackberry Farms had one of the largest tables and most extensive selection of cheeses, preserves, and breads made on-site at their farm. It's truly fantastic food that they're making over there in the hills of East Tennessee.

For those of you who didn’t win, you can still purchase tickets (at a variety of levels) on the festival’s site (don’t forget; a portion of proceeds benefits Community Food Advocates).

And to whet your appetite even further, you can follow the Southern Artisan Cheese Festival on Facebook, where Kathleen Cotter of The Bloomy Rind has been profiling the cheesemakers who will be participating.

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Mitchell Deli Team to Open Rudie's Seafood and Sausage

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 3:14 PM

  • @MitchellDeli
David Mitchell of the popular Mitchell Delicatessen in Riverside Village is planning to open a new restaurant next month.

Rudie's Seafood and Sausage is going into the space the deli vacated when it moved to bigger digs across the street last year. In fact, it's filling both the former deli at 1402 McGavock Pike and the former Sip Cafe space next door. (Sip Cafe is currently operating from a food trailer outside Old Made Good at 3701 Gallatin Pike while it prepares to move to another building.)

Mitchell says Rudie's will offer a small menu that will change frequently, reflecting the meats the team will prepare in house utilizing whole hogs. (Think pork belly, house-made sausages and more.) In addition, they will cure fresh seafood in house and will also serve up fresh shellfish like oysters to fill out the menu of mostly small plates, suitable for sharing.

Rudie's other component is beer. Mitchell says he's working to offer beers "at the temperature they are supposed to be enjoyed at." For example, he'll offer one cellar beer that will be served at the preferred temperature of 56 degrees Fahrenheit (warmer than what's common in U.S. bars), which brings out more subtle flavors. Other beers will be served cooler, depending on the flavor profile.

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Vote for Olive and Sinclair in Martha Stewart's American Made Awards

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 8:52 AM

Nashville favorite bean-to-bar chocolate maker Olive and Sinclair continues to draw national attention, and now Scott Witherow and crew have caught the eye of no less than Martha Stewart herself. At the countess of style's website, they're holding an online competition to recognize the best in American Made, a program that "spotlights the maker, supports the local, and celebrates the handmade."

Olive and Sinclair is up against a formidable roster of other craftspeople in the Sweet and Baked Goods territory, including bakers and chocolatiers from across the country. But now O&S is a finalist, the vote is in the hands of the people.

Beginning this Monday, Sept. 15, online voters will be able to help select the winners who will be announced on Oct. 17 and recognized at an event in New York City on Nov. 7-8. In his nomination, Witherow answers a series of questions about his business and philosophy. When asked about his sources of inspiration, he mentions "the South, anything old and the outdoors." As for his advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs, Witherow says, "It's nice to work for yourself and even nicer to work with your friends."

Doesn't this sound like somebody who you'd want to represent It City to followers of the Martha Empire? If you want to do your part to help him win, head over to the nomination page and vote early and often!

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The Weekly Open Thread: Fairest of the Pies Edition

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 7:07 AM

This weekend is the final weekend for the Tennessee State Fair. I’ll be there tomorrow, in the fortunate position of judging this year’s Tennessee Two-Crust Apple Pie Contest. Last year, Abby White was a judge and got some great tips from fellow judge, Miss Daisy King. Among other things, Miss Daisy advised to observe the appearance of the pie both for doneness on the bottom as well as for flakiness of crust and to be sure not to eat all of each pie portion, since there will be 10 pies to judge.

Miss Daisy (as well as a volunteer) also warned to keep reactions about each pie to a minimum, since the entrants will be in the audience watching, and they take this competition very seriously. (Makes sense: The top pie is rewarded with $500.) This will be the difficult part as I am known among family and friends for my utter lack of poker face, particularly if I have encountered something I do not like. That said, I hope I’m warned ahead of time if any pie contains bacon and/or peanut butter. Also, I hope it’s not too crass that I plan to pack up my uneaten portions to share with my family, who will be patiently waiting for me (or not) to finish judging so we can get out to all the other great fair foods.

Speaking of fair foods, has anyone been to the fair this year and spotted any new additions to the fair fare? Any new deep-fried items? Anything new on a stick? And can anyone confirm that the pineapple whips are there this year? What’s your favorite fair food?

What else is on your mind this week?

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Here's Your Volksfest Reminder

Posted By on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 7:18 AM

Last month, Lesley Lassiter told you about Tennessee Volksfest, Nashville's version of the traditional German "Festival for the People." The event is moving from Centennial Park to the Nashville Farmers' Market for 2014, a development that also occurred with the Nashville Food Truck Awards and almost led to me going to the wrong place a few weeks back. (Don't do that. It's downtown.)

The space should be plenty big to handle the hundreds of attendees expected this weekend to enjoy a traditional German biergarten serving seasonal offerings from Franziskaner, Hofbräu, Krombacher and Spaten, and German food favorites will be served up by folks at Riffs. Admission is free, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't go ahead and visit the event website to buy beer and food tokens in advance.

The tokens are $5 apiece, with beers going for 1 token and food items costing 1-2 tokens. But if you purchase $20 worth off the website, they'll throw in the equivalent of an extra token for free. Instead of paying $5 for your stein, they'll give you four tokens and your drinking glass. Of course, you can bring your clean stein from last year to refill if you'd like.

Along with beer, and food, the festival will feature classic Bavarian live music, games, kid zone and a vintage Volkswagen car show. Tennessee Volksfest will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 13, and Sunday, Sept. 14, at the Nashville Farmers' Market, 900 Rosa Parks Blvd. Get ready to get your oom-pah on!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Watch Sterling Wright of The Slider House on Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen Tonight

Posted By on Wed, Sep 10, 2014 at 4:22 PM

The Slider House
is hosting a viewing party at 7 p.m. tonight for grill cook Sterling Wright's appearance on Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen on Fox.

Wright has been cooking since he was 15; a press release from The Slider House says he grew up in Nashville's J.C. Napier homes and got inspired to take a culinary path thanks to a teacher at McGavock High School.

(He seems like a savvy and amiable sort; we don't expect the kind of fireworks that ensued when then-Nashville chef John "Chappy" Chapman clashed with Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares.)

The Slider House, which specializes in slider sandwiches and craft beer served in cans, is at 1907 Division St. in Midtown. The two-hour episode, which is the Hell's Kitchen season premiere, airs at 7 p.m. CDT tonight on Fox. (Locally that's WZTV-Channel 17.)

DVR note: The Hell's Kitchen page on the Fox site says the premiere "will air in its entirety, but will pause for President Obama's speech" on the ISIS crisis in the Middle East at 8 p.m. CDT.

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Wurst News: We Bid Farewell to Viener Fest

Posted By on Wed, Sep 10, 2014 at 2:43 PM

Viener Fest, the little restaurant and bar off Centennial Park serving "German-and-Austrian-styled cuisine with an American accent," has shut down for good.

The closure was announced Tuesday on the Viener Fest Facebook page: "To all of our loyal and supportive customers, we regretfully must inform you that Viener Fest is now closed and we will not re-open. We thank you sincerely for all your support and patronage over the past two years and we hope to see you around Nashville as life goes on ..."

Viener Fest opened in early 2013, and the response was positive. In his First Bite on this blog, Chris Chamberlain was impressed by the expansive menu and the vintage bungalow's nicely appointed interior. He particularly enjoyed a $5.99 lunch special that included a drink, a sausage dish and a side item from a list that included sauerkraut, apple sauce, french fries, spaetzle, German potato salad and more; for his sausage item, he chose the "juicy and delicious" kaiserkraner.

Scene critic Carrington Fox also gave Viener Fest a positive review, noting both to the German/Austrian cuisine and the American dishes. "We were a little sheepish about how much we enjoyed the fried bologna sandwich," she said, and also lauded the desserts, including "a gorgeous Black Forest cake" boasting "moist layers of dark chocolate sponge and fluffy mousse, with whipped cream frosting and cherry filling."

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